Applied Energy, Vol.185, 2045-2057, 2017
Simulation study of transfer characteristics for spacer-filled membrane distillation desalination modules
Membrane distillation (MD) is an emerging and promising membrane separation process, which can directly utilize renewable thermal energy or low-grade waste heat, for applications in water or wastewater treatment and food industry. However, a major drawback of MD process is its low energy efficiency. Spacer is the most suggested and studied eddy promoter to enhance the heat and mass transfer, which further improves both the separation and the energy utilization performance, of MD processes. This paper presents the results of a 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation of DCMD (direct contact membrane distillation) modules using channels with and without spacers for desalination application. The model employs permeable wall boundary condition to take into account the transmembrane heat and mass transfer and simulates the entire module length. The simulation reveals similar fluctuating distributions of temperature polarization coefficient, transmembrane heat and mass fluxes as well as the shear stress on the membrane surface along the entire module length. Correlations have been developed for friction factor and average Nusselt number. These correlations are useful for the analysis and design of DCMD modules. The extent of heat transfer enhancement by spacers depends on the geometry of spacers and the Reynolds number of fluid. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.